Post-Holbert Coverup, Take Two on Baumgardner Expulsion

Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert (R).

As the Denver Post reports, the new recently-exposed additional confirmation of serial sexual harassment by GOP Sen. Randy Baumgardner is moving Senate Democrats to once again attempt a late resolution to expel Baumgardner from the chamber–a move likely to be killed by GOP Senate leadership, which appears to have cast any pretense of holding their members accountable for sexual harassment aside:

Because it’s past the deadline to file resolutions and bills, the rules dictate that the chamber’s Republican leaders would need to consent to its introduction.

“They don’t want that,” said Sen. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat who is pushing for resolution. “I don’t think it’s going to happen, but it’s a request I felt like needed to be made.”

Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, who as we discussed yesterday appears to have helped suppress this latest investigative report ahead of the first vote to expel Sen. Baumgardner, is using that delay to deflect from Senate Democrats’ request for a new resolution to expel:

“Don’t shortcut the process,” Holbert said. “…We’ve now had a chance to read them. And now we need to come back and meet and agree how we’re going to move forward.”

Holbert’s disingenuous call for everyone to ‘slow down’ since Senators “had just received reports on the latest investigation Friday” is undermined by the ample evidence the vote to expel Baumgardner was deliberately scheduled to maneuver around this second investigation–an investigation that validates the original complaints agfainst Baumgardner, and further underscores Baumgardner’s serial harassment of women at the state capitol. Although Senate staff had the new report, it wasn’t released to the victims because Baumgardner had refused to be interviewed. Between Baumgardner’s obstruction and the willingness of Senate leadership to proceed as if he wasn’t obstructing, Republicans had enough manufactured uncertainty to justify among themselves voting against expulsion.

And now it appears they’re going to run out the clock–no matter what else comes out, no matter how bad it looks.

Chris Holbert and the Baumgardner Cover-Up

Senate President Kevin Grantham (left) and Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert.

Senate President Kevin Grantham and Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert have steadfastly refused to discipline Sen. Randy “Boob Grabber” Baumgardner over multiple claims of sexual harassment that occurred over a period of several years. Grantham and Holbert’s inexplicable protection of Baumgardner is certainly not a new story, but this now-familiar tale may be turning the corner into a full blown cover-up.

If you take a second look at some of the most recent reporting from KUNC reporter Bente Birkeland (whose work on sexual harassment at the State Capitol was recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists), you can start to piece together what would appear to be a calculated effort to withhold information that could have led to Baumgarner’s expulsion from the Senate. Here’s the key paragraphs from a story Birkeland published on Monday about details of a second investigation into harassment allegations by the company Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR):

The report is dated March 30, 2018, Good Friday, a day off for legislators and staff. The following Monday, April 2, the ADR investigator, Kathryn Miller confirmed to our sources that she had submitted her findings to Senate Secretary Effie Ameen. That was the same day Republican Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, who controls the chamber’s calendar, scheduled  an unexpected vote on a Democratic resolution to expel Baumgardner after weeks of pressure from Democrats to do so. [Pols emphasis]

Yet the additional details were not considered in the expulsion vote, only the findings of a single investigation that concluded  Baumgardner more likely than not grabbed and slapped a former legislative aide’s buttocks. While Ameen had the new findings, the investigations were still considered to be open until April 11 because the investigator stated Baumgardner was refusing to be interviewed. She said his actions held up the release of the report by about a month.

Birkeland’s story on Monday did not include a response from Sen. Holbert about why a resolution to expel Baumgardner was introduced before results were made public about the second (ADP) investigation, but here’s how she followed up via Twitter:

Sen. Chris Holbert (R) on a DIY “border patrol” in Arizona.

Holbert’s excuse for the timing of the Baumgardner resolution is that “he doesn’t control the calendar.” The problem with this answer is that one of Holbert’s jobs as Senate Majority Leader is to schedule resolutions in the State Senate. Holbert would have a hard time arguing this point since Birkeland has a copy of a January memo from his office in which Senate Secretary Effie Ameen expressly conveys this process to legislators:

Resolution calendaring requests must be given to Keri Brehm in the Majority Leader’s office at least ONE WEEK in advance of the date you wish for that Resolution to be heard.

The ADR report was submitted to State Senate leaders on April 2 — the same day that a resolution was unexpectedly called to debate Baumgardner’s expulsion. That resolution failed by a near-party line vote (Republican Sen. Ray Scott voted yes, but “Independent” Sen. Cheri Jahn was a ‘NO’), but it’s fair to wonder if the outcome might have been different had lawmakers been aware of the results of the second investigation into claims of sexual harassment against Baumgardner.

State lawmakers will adjourn in May without actually addressing the culture of sexual harassment, and here’s where this becomes particularly important: If Republicans maintain control of the State Senate in November, Chris Holbert will be the odds-on favorite to become the next Senate President. That’s the same Chris Holbert who appears to have covered up the results of a second investigation that likely would have resulted in Baumgardner’s ouster from the Senate — which would make it even more difficult for the GOP to maintain their Senate majority.

There’s no such thing as an honest cover-up.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 24)

Tomorrow is Administrative Professionals Day, if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY… 

► Colorado Republicans are getting (rightfully) blasted for proposing legislation that would jail Colorado teachers for escalating their push to increase education funding. Mother Jones is just one of numerous national news outlets to pick up this story:

The bill, which is seen as a long shot to make it through the state Legislature, came just days after hundreds of Colorado educators rallied in Denver, joining educators in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona in protesting for better pay and funding for public schools. Gardner told the Denver Post on Monday that the idea for the proposed legislation emerged after the strike in West Virginia, and he noted he was open to changes in the penalty for teachers who strike, adding it was “probably most important” that unions are penalized for sponsoring a strike.

“It’s a wise thing to do, in some shape or form, in the state of Colorado because we have one district that’s already voted to strike. We have others discussing a strike,” Gardner told the Post. “Strikes are not good for children.” On Twitter, Colorado Senate Democrats slammed the bill as “anti-worker trash.”

Colorado teachers are among the lowest-paid in the entire country. 9News has a list of school districts that will be closed for students at the end of this week because of planned teacher protests.

 

► The White House is defending President Trump’s nominee for VA Secretary amid what looks to be an uphill battle for confirmation. From the Washington Post:

Ronny L. Jackson, the White House physician and a former combat surgeon, was scheduled to testify before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Wednesday. But the hearing has been delayed because of concerns about his qualifications and oversight of the White House medical staff, as well as other allegations about Jackson’s conduct that have been shared with the committee.

“We’re gonna have a hearing at some time in the future, but not Wednesday,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), the chairman of the panel.

Should Jackson’s nomination fail, perhaps Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman can be a nominee so that he can later call on himself to resign. In the meantime, perhaps Trump’s administration can come up with some sort of vetting process.

 

If you’re having a difficult time keeping track of the number of sexual harassment allegations now levied against Sen. Randy Baumgardner, you are not alone. If you believe that Senate President Kevin Grantham or Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert are ever going to actually do something about these allegations…well, you might be on your own there.

 

► Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) may be finishing out his political career in 2018 after a Colorado State Supreme Court ruling tossed his name off of the June Primary ballot. Lamborn is apparently appealing the decision to a federal court, but it is unclear whether a higher court will consider his arguments. The Colorado Secretary of State’s office is supposed to finalize the Primary ballot by Friday, April 27.

This is a complete embarrassment for Lamborn even if he ultimately makes it onto the Primary ballot. Lamborn is a six-term Congressman, yet his re-election campaign struggled to collect 1,000 valid petition signatures.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Grantham Shrugs Off Yet More Harassment Claims

Senate President Kevin Grantham and Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert (top) continue to shield Sen. Randy “Boob Grabber” Baumgardner.

Senate President Kevin Grantham is never going to be included in anybody’s definition of “courage,” but he’s running out of excuses in his steadfast refusal to do anything about even more claims of sexual harassment against Sen. Randy “Boob Grabber” Baumgardner.

As Bente Birkeland reports for KUNC, there are a lot more fingers pointing at Baumgardner…as well as Grantham and Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert:

An investigation determined that eight people’s allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior from Sen. Randy Baumgardner were credible. The findings, by Littleton-based Alternative Dispute Resolution Inc., an independent firm, are in addition to earlier allegations a separate company found to have more likely than not occurred.

The ADR report covers two separate complaints. For one of them it said Baumgardner, a Hot Sulphur Springs Republican, created “an intimidating, offensive, and hostile work environment” for five non-partisan Senate staffers in 2016, and “substantially interfered” with one woman’s work performance. The report found it credible that he also had a nickname associated with his behavior, the “boob grabber.”

Before we go any further here, it’s important to note that this is a completely separate investigation about sexual harassment claims against Baumgardner aside from those that have already been extensively reported.

In February, Grantham all but excused multiple claims of harassment against Baumgardner in part by alleging that the investigation into those claims — from a company called “Employers Council” –was biased in some way. It is Grantham who pushed for a new company to be hired to investigate further accusations, and that’s how this report from Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) was created. We now have reports from two different companies investigating multiple claims of sexual harassment against Baumgardner, and every single one of those accusations were found to be “credible.”

In fact, there are now so many sexual harassment claims against Baumgardner that we literally cannot keep track of them all. Either this is the greatest conspiratorial setup of a sitting legislator in Colorado history, or Baumgardner is a serial sexual harasser. Common sense would indicate the latter, but Grantham isn’t going to budge from backing Baumgardner. As the Associated Press reports:

Colorado’s Republican Senate president says he won’t ask a GOP lawmaker to resign over new allegations of sexual harassment.

Sen. Kevin Grantham said Monday he’s still reviewing an independent report that deemed credible claims by eight people that Sen. Randy Baumgardner created a hostile working environment toward women.

There are about two-and-a-half weeks left in the 2018 Colorado legislative session. We’d say the odds are pretty good that Grantham will take the full two-and-a-half weeks to “review” this new report.

Now, if you’ve been following this entire story of sexual harassment at the state legislature, you’re probably aware that Sen. Baumgardner was very nearly expelled from his seat earlier this month. Baumgardner was spared expulsion on a near-party-line vote (with “Independent” Sen. Cheri Jahn siding with Republicans). But as Bente Birkeland reported today, Baumgardner may have also been saved because Grantham and Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert buried the existence of more claims against Baumgardner:

The report is dated March 30, 2018, Good Friday, a day off for legislators and staff. The following Monday, April 2, the ADR investigator, Kathryn Miller confirmed to our sources that she had submitted her findings to Senate Secretary Effie Ameen. That was the same day Republican Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, who controls the chamber’s calendar, scheduled  an unexpected vote on a Democratic resolution to expel Baumgardner after weeks of pressure from Democrats to do so.

Yet the additional details were not considered in the expulsion vote, only the findings of a single investigation that concluded  Baumgardner more likely than not grabbed and slapped a former legislative aide’s buttocks. While Ameen had the new findings, the investigations were still considered to be open until April 11 because the investigator stated Baumgardner was refusing to be interviewed. She said his actions held up the release of the report by about a month. [Pols emphasis]

The findings of the ADR report into additional allegations against Baumgardner were available before the expulsion hearing, but Grantham and Holbert sat on the new information.

Senate Republican leadership has protected a serial sexual harasser for months, and they continue to stand in the way of any sort of action despite countless accusations. If this culture is going to change in the State Capitol, it’s going to be because voters forced it to happen by stripping Republicans of their Senate Majority in November.

Republican Lawmakers Threaten Jail Time for Underpaid Teachers

Two Colorado Springs Republicans, Rep. Paul Lundeen and Sen. Bob Gardner, are sponsoring a ridiculously tone-deaf piece of legislation targeting teachers.

The plight of underfunded schools and underpaid teachers has become a national story, with educators walking off the job in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona.

Here in Colorado, teachers have been marching on the State Capitol to demand higher wages and better school funding. Those protests will grow louder this week when teachers from three of the largest school districts in the state — Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson counties — descend on the State Capitol on Thursday and Friday. Teachers from multiple other school districts throughout Colorado are participating in various rallies this week, and while there are no indications that educators might go on strike, Republican lawmakers are doing their best to threaten them anyway.

Denver7 reports on a new GOP-sponsored bill in the Colorado legislature designed to have a chilling effect on the free speech rights of teachers:

The bill, SB18-264, would prohibit public school teacher strikes by authorizing school districts to seek an injunction from district court. A failure to comply with the injunction would “constitute contempt of court” and teachers could face not only fines but up to six months in county jail, the bill language reads. 

The bill also directs school districts to fire teachers on the spot without a proper hearing if they’re found in contempt of court and also bans public school teachers from getting paid “for any day which the public school teacher participates in a strike.” [Pols emphasis]

The bill, which was introduced this past Friday, is sponsored by State Rep. Paul Lundeen and Sen. Bob Gardner, both Republicans.

The story of this new legislation from Republicans is already being picked up nationally (see The Hill and Vox.com for two examples), and we would expect that you’ll be hearing about this soon from every major media outlet in the country. Colorado teachers are among the lowest paid in the country — our state ranks 46th in average teacher pay nationwide.

Administrators in Colorado have tried threatening teachers in the past, and it has usually failed spectacularly (see: McMinimee, Dan). We wouldn’t expect this move by Republicans to do any better. Colorado teachers are not promoting a strike, and those that are walking out in places like Jefferson County are taking personal days off to attend the rallies; it’s not like they are just refusing to work for the day.

Aside from the issue itself, the political ramifications here are plainly obvious. With this legislation, Republican lawmakers are publicly lining up in opposition to Colorado teachers in a manner that is absolutely unnecessary. Instead of listening to teacher arguments and nodding politely — and then doing nothing — the GOP has decided to stake out a position as a villain. And make no mistake about which side is the bad guy here; a recent poll shows that 78% of Americans believe teachers are underpaid, and half of those respondents say they would support a tax increase in order to raise teacher salaries.

With Democrats in control of the State House, there’s no way SB18-264 is going to pass anyway. Republicans are inflicting a significant political wound on themselves for no practical reason.

Democrats on Ballot in Every Major Race in Colorado

You can’t win a race that you don’t enter.

The blue wave cometh.

As Jesse Paul explains today for the Denver Post, Colorado Democrats will have a candidate on the ballot in every major political race in 2018:

Democrats have secured a candidate on the ballot in every 2018 Colorado congressional, statehouse and major statewide race.

The last candidate to make the ballot and fill out the party’s roster was Guinn Unger Jr., a Democrat from Bayfield, who is running for the seat currently held by Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose. Unger’s signatures were verified by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office on Thursday.

Before you shrug off this statistic, consider how things look across the political aisle:

The Colorado Republican Party said it doesn’t have candidates in all of the state’s legislative races.

Out of the 65 state House races, the GOP had 35 people running before last weekend’s statewide Republican assembly. At that time, the party also had candidates on the ballot in 13 of of 17 state Senate races.

A spokesperson for the Colorado Republican Party is mentioned in the Post article trying to explain that there are advantages and disadvantages to having candidates on the ballot in every race, but this attempt at spin is transparently-silly nonsense talk. Political parties don’t need to expend resources for every candidate on the ballot, but Republicans would like you to think that it’s some sort of brilliant strategery to not even bother to compete in dozens of races.

It isn’t.

Why the Culture of Sexual Harassment Persists in Colorado Legislature

Someday Colorado Republicans will run a candidate named “Drew Process.”

There was an interesting vote in the State House today that broke down along party lines. The outcome of that vote speaks loudly as to why a culture of sexual harassment at the State Capitol remains largely unchecked.

House Bill 18-1391 passed out of the lower chamber on Wednesday despite opposition from the entire Republican caucus. What is HB18-1391, you ask? Here’s how Jesse Paul of the Denver Post explained the legislation earlier this week:

House Bill 1391  requires that each higher-education institution adopt — and periodically review — a sexual misconduct policy that includes reporting options and procedures for investigations and judgments, and protections for accusers and alleged attackers.

It also would bar the use of an accuser’s sexual history in adjudication proceedings, ensure there is a confidential reporting process, prohibit retaliation, require timely case updates to those involved and encourage prompt resolutions.

Basically, HB18-1391 would do for Colorado colleges and universities something that Republican lawmakers have consistently opposed under the Gold Dome: It would clarify and modernize sexual misconduct policies.

“Retaliation is a serious problem and a fear of retaliation prevents issues from surfacing, keeps people from raising problems and enables a culture of harassment to fester.”

— Report on sexual harassment at State Capitol by the Investigations Law Group.

House Republicans wanted nothing to do with this bill for reasons they will have to explain to others (and themselves) at some other time. That the GOP would much rather hide behind the curtain of “due process” than do anything to actually reduce sexual misconduct or harassment is a major reason why this new story from KUNC’s Bente Birkeland can still be written:

An outside consultant, who studied workplace culture at the state Capitol, found nearly half of the roughly 500 people surveyed had witnessed sexist and/or seriously disrespectful behavior. A third said they had experienced sexual harassment first-hand. And nearly 90 percent of those who say they were harassed didn’t speak out or file a complaint. Many said they feared retaliation from their accusers and others.

Those findings, by the Investigations Law Group, mirror what we’ve discovered in almost six months of reporting on this issue.

Our sources — both named and unnamed — say the Capitol’s culture needs to improve. They want elected officials to be held to a high standard, but most don’t want to go public or file a formal complaint, fearing it will cost them professionally, or even personally. [Pols emphasis]

Those that are fearful include four current and former Republican female staffers who are now sharing their allegations of inappropriate behavior by Sen. Randy Baumgardner, a Hot Sulphur Springs Republican. Joining them are four more current and former GOP staffers – three men and one woman – who say they witnessed or were aware of complaints about Baumgardner’s behavior.

Senate President Kevin Grantham

Why would anyone feel safe to address sexual harassment in the State Capitol when House Republicans vote against a bill to clarify sexual misconduct policies at higher-education institutions in Colorado? Why would anyone not worry about retaliation when Senate President Kevin Grantham is more interested in blaming investigators and casting doubt on victims that making any real effort to clean things up in his caucus?

Grantham told Birkeland that he was “not aware of any other concerns” involving Sen. Randy Baumgarder, who was nearly expelled from the legislature earlier this month because of multiple claims of sexual harassment. Grantham has previously insisted that he was unaware of rumors about Baumgardner’s handsiness at the Capitol. To understand what makes these statements such a problem, let’s back up to an earlier paragraph in the KUNC story:

Historically, many complaints have been handled informally. One woman told us she complained in 2012 to then-chief of Staff Jesse Mallory that Baumgardner gave her long and unwanted hugs each day. The Senate minority leader at the time, Bill Cadman, allegedly barred Baumgardner from hugging staffers at work. Cadman did not return our requests to comment for this story. [Pols emphasis]

Grantham was a member of the Senate leadership in 2012. Perhaps this story is completely untrue, but if it’s not, it says a couple of bad things about the Senate President: Grantham is either willfully ignorant or horribly uninformed. Or, perhaps both. None of these answers are good.

The culture of sexual harassment in the State Capitol will not be fully addressed this session:

Instead, legislative leaders have decided to create a committee of lawmakers to study the issue over the summer and make recommendations for the 2019 legislative session. The consultant advised action this session, and some people both in and outside of the Capitol were disappointed by the delay.

“There’s an argument that says let’s get it right, let’s not rush into action,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “That being said, there needs to be a sense of urgency.”

That ridiculous quote from Gov. Hickenlooper is a problem in itself. The legislature hired an outside firm to conduct an investigation, and that firm recommended that the legislature take action this session. The State needs stronger leadership in order to insist that changes be made swiftly. It’s unrealistic to expect that lawmakers will ever get a new policy exactly right; that isn’t a reason to wait — it’s an excuse to punt. The perfect cannot be allowed to become the enemy of the good.

There are a lot of reasons why a culture of sexual harassment has been allowed to fester in the State Capitol. There are also many reasons why this is a problem that won’t be solved in 2018.

A lot of these are the same reasons.

Colorado GOP apologizes for Facebook post but not racist comments

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Colorado Republican Party has deleted and apologized for posting pictures of State Rep. Dominique Jackson (D – Aurora) with her eyes closed at her desk on the statehouse floor.

The caption declared Jackson to be “In search of the American Dream,” but it failed to mention her serious health condition: lung clots which require her to receive regular IV infusions of white blood cells.

Her condition and the post itself were first reported via Twitter by KRCC radio’s Bente Kirkland.

Republican Party spokesman Daniel Cole apologized to the Representative on Twitter, writing “I’m the one who made the offending post. Upon learning of Rep. Jackson’s condition, I immediately removed it. I apologize to her for having shared the pictures in the first place.” 

9News story by Brandon Rittiman also quoted Cole:

“Reached by telephone state GOP spokesman Daniel Cole said he ‘wasn’t aware’ of Jackson’s medical issues. He said the post’s wording was meant to be light-hearted and that he “wouldn’t have made that comment” if he had been aware of her condition, which is why he removed the post this morning.”

Cole posted the images around 3:00 pm on Monday. Within the hour, several commenters had noted her health condition.

Other commenters, however, were less concerned about the Representative’s health. 

Still others chose to make racially charged statements referencing Africa and calling the Representative as a welfare recipient.

Joining in the comment frenzy was El Paso County Republican Chairman Joshua Hosler, who compared Rep. Jackson to 85 year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, who notoriously fell asleep during a State Of The Union speech.

None of these comments were removed from the post. Some remained up for eighteen hours, being removed only when Colorado GOP spokesman Cole deleted the post entirely.

Daniel Cole was right to apologize and to delete the post. No apology was forthcoming, though, for the dozens of cruel and insulting statements hosted on the state Republican Facebook page for nearly a day. During this time, two new posts appeared on the page.

Political Facebook can be a mean place and page administrators like Cole aren’t expected to spend every waking minute scanning their post comments for hate, but personal and racial insults levied at an elected official and colleague of the Colorado GOP’s own members shouldn’t ever be tolerated.

This was first published on the Colorado Times Recorder.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 17)

Happy Tax Day! Watch out for those technical difficulties when filing your taxes. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY… 

► Colorado teachers took their call for better pay and benefits to the State Capitol on Monday. As Blair Miller and Marc Stewart report for Denver7:

Dozens of Colorado public school teachers descended Monday on the state Capitol to demand better pay and pensions as lawmakers inside debated their future retirement benefit program.

Englewood Schools were closed for the day as most of the school’s teachers joined the rally. The educators are the latest across the U.S. who have joined public walkouts to call for higher wages for public school teachers

The CEA estimates that Colorado teachers spend $656 of their own money for school supplies for students each year, and the average teacher salary here ranks 46th among U.S. states and Washington, D.C., according to the National Education Association. [Pols emphasis]

For a great explanation of how and why Colorado teachers are so underpaid, check out this story from Denver7 reporter Jennifer Kovaleski:

The latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, Education Week; Quality Counts, and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) show Colorado ranks 42nd in how much it spends per student, roughly $2,500 less than the national average.

Which means despite being the nation’s 12th richest state, our public schools land at the bottom of the list for both per pupil spending and teacher pay.

 

Something smells in Yuma, Colorado, where Sheriff Chad Day appears to have accepted and $62,000 truck and other “donations” to the Sheriff’s department so that billionaire right-wing donor Robert Mercer can be a “volunteer sheriff’s deputy” in Yuma County — with the primary purpose of skirting gun laws so that Mercer can carry a concealed weapon anywhere in the country.

 

► President Trump overruled advisers and decided to scrap proposed sanctions on Russia. As the New York Times reports:

President Trump rejected, for now at least, a fresh round of sanctions set to be imposed against Russia on Monday, a course change that underscored the schism between the president and his national security team.

The president’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, had announced on Sunday that the administration would place sanctions on Russian companies found to be assisting Syria’s chemical weapons program. The sanctions were listed on a menu of further government options after an American-led airstrike on Syria, retaliating against a suspected gas attack that killed dozens a week earlier.

But the White House contradicted her on Monday, saying that Mr. Trump had not approved additional measures.

“We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement.

Perhaps Trump received a weekend phone call from his Uncle Putin.

 

► President Trump has yet to announce a replacement for Communications Director Hope Hicks, who announced in February that she would be leaving the White House. As the Washington Post reports, that may be because Trump has decided to just do the job himself:

He drafts talking points. He organizes surrogates. He oversees rapid response. He maintains relationships with key media figures over dinners, rounds of golf and long phone calls. And, of course, he manages his own social media presence.

Since the 2016 election, five people have now done six stints as Trump’s communications director. One reason it’s an impossible job is that the former reality television star who occupies the Oval Office will always consider himself his own best spokesman.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Colorado Democratic Assembly Results

Colorado Democrats assembled at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield from Friday, April 13, to Saturday, April 14, 2018. The crowd of almost 4,000 Democrats were enthusiastic, engaged, yet civil (in contrast to the stunning back-stabbing and skullduggery at the Republican assembly) . The CDP Assembly was superbly well-organized, with balloting completed in about a half hour, and counted in less than two hours.  Kudos to Chair Morgan Carroll and all of the CDP staff and volunteers.

All of the  congressional districts held their own assemblies; many candidates had primary challengers or Democratic challengers to Republican incumbents. In this “blue wave” year, no office held by the GOP can be considered to be off-limits. Democrats in Colorado put forward a slate of phenomenal candidates.

The official results from the Colorado Democratic Party (CDP) for statewide offices are:

CU Regent-at-Large
Lesley Smith: 3,229 votes (100.00%)

Based on these results, Lesley Smith has qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for CU Regent-at-Large.

Treasurer
Bernard Douthit: 1,074 votes (31.50%)
Charles Scheibe: 557 votes (16.34%)
Dave Young: 1,778 votes (52.16%)

Based on these results, Bernard Douthit and Dave Young have qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Treasurer.

Secretary of State
Jena Griswold: 3,352 votes (98.44%)
Phillip Villard: 53 votes (1.56%)

Based on these results, Jena Griswold has qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Secretary of State.

Attorney General
Amy Padden: 360 votes (10.54%)
Joe Salazar: 1,249 votes (36.58%)
Phil Weiser: 1,805 votes (52.87%)

Based on these results, Joe Salazar and Phil Weiser have qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Attorney General. Amy Padden can qualify for the ballot if the Secretary of State determines that she has collected the requisite number of valid signatures.

Governor
Cary Kennedy: 2,101 votes (61.65%)
Jared Polis: 1,120 votes (32.86%)
Erik Underwood: 187 votes (5.49%)

Based on these results, Cary Kennedy and Jared Polis have qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Governor.

NOTE: These are not all of the candidates that are running for these particular offices. Some candidates have chosen to qualify for the ballot by submitting petition signatures instead of going through the caucus-assembly process.

Here are the CD results in order: ( rounded to nearest 1%). I’ll update this list with numbers as I find them.

I’ve included my notes on the assemblies I attended and on the speakers I heard.

CD1: (Denver metro)Diana Degette – 61% . Her primary opponent, Saira Rao , got 37%, and  will be on the ballot. Rep. Degette has been a reliable Democratic vote for many years in a safe district – I think Rao’s candidacy will be a needed wake-up call to be more progressive and to offer better constituent services. Rao is sharp, a great speaker, and has energized the progressive base. Degette attended her CD1 assembly on April 13 , did not attend nor speak at the state assembly April 14.

CD2: (Boulder area – Jared Polis vacated the seat to run for Governor) Joe Negeuse – 91% Joe gave a helluva speech, as he always does. His personal story touches many people. Boulder will be well represented by him, as he’ll certainly win the primary, and almost certainly the general election. His primary opponent, Mark Williams, did not make the ballot.  The GOP has put up a couple of “Nicks” against Neguse: Nick Thomas and Nicholas Morse. I don’t know who won the GOP assembly vote, but they won’t beat “the Goose”.

CD3: (most of the western slope and SW CO – currently held by Scott Tipton) Diane Mitsch Bush had the highest delegate vote with 56%; Karl Harlon also cleared the 30% threshold with 41%, and will be on the ballot.

CD4: (Mostly NE CO – current incumbent Ken Buck) The Doctors were in the house! Veterinary doctors Karen McCormick and Chase Kohne each had throngs of energetic supporters on stage for their nominations. Each gave a rousing speech:

Kohne’s best line, in my opinion: “If you want to shoot an AR15, go down to the recruiting office and join the military.”

McCormick’s nominators are emphasizing Dr McCormick’s support for Dreamers and immigrants. Karen McCormick emphasized Cannabis, immigrant rights, healthcare, union support, bipartisan cooperation to get laws passed. Full disclosure: I live in CD4. I’m voting for McCormick, will be fine with Kohne as well.

CD5 (El Paso area, currently held by Doug Lamborn) Stephany Rose Spaulding won the delegate count and will be on the ballot. I don’t know about the other CD5 candidates, whom you can read about at the EPCO Young Dems site.  It’s great to see so many young Democrats running from what has6been the Tea Party GOP’s bastion in Colorado.

CD6 Aurora / Arapahoe County area, currently held by Mike Coffman. Jason Crow won top ballot with 64% , while Levi Tilleman will also be on the ballot with 35%. I saw Crow speak to the assembly, and found his persona to be authentic and appealing. PPP surveyed 761 voters, and found that Crow polled 44-39 against Coffman in Febrary 2018.

CD7 Ed Perlmutter, the Democratic incumbent, did not attend the Assembly as far as I know. Ed, a very popular Congressman in his district,  is not  being primaried in this election.

 

Author’s note – this diary started as an open thread based on my  live blogging at the Colorado State Assembly. I’ve updated it with ballot results.

 

 

Get More Smarter on Friday (the 13th)

Do you know how many movies have been released as part of the “Friday the 13th” franchise? If you guessed “12,” then you’re already pretty smart. Still, it’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY… 

► Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein tells friends that he is prepared to be fired by President Trump. From NBC News:

One source who spoke to Rosenstein said he seemed fully aware he may soon lose his job and was at peace with the possibility, confident he had done his job with integrity…

If Rosenstein is fired, the next in line to oversee Mueller’s probe is Solicitor General Noel Francisco, though Trump could choose to replace Rosenstein with anyone who has been confirmed by the Senate.

 

► The State Assemblies for both Democrats and Republicans will be held on Saturday. The big contests are obviously those for Governor, but both parties also need to vote among candidates for State Treasurer. Among Democrats, there is also an important contest for Attorney General.

Last night, two Republican candidates for Governor (and Greg Lopez) participated in a debate on 9News that was notable largely for the roundhouse punches thrown at Walker Stapleton by Mitt Romney’s Nephew.

 

► President Trump reportedly plans to pardon Scooter Libby, former Chief of Staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, largely to send a message to potential witnesses in an investigation being led by special counsel Robert Mueller. From the Washington Post:

President Trump’s plan to pardon Lewis “Scooter” Libby is the latest signal to his associates that he has the power and inclination to reward those who stay loyal during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Libby was convicted of four felonies, including obstruction of justice and perjury before a grand jury, related to the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame during his time as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined $250,000.

Richard Painter, who was the chief ethics lawyer in George W. Bush’s White House from 2005 to 2007, tweeted: “So what’s the message here? Lie to a grand jury to protect political superiors and you will get a full pardon?”

Um, yeah, pretty much.

 

► Former FBI Director James Comey is promoting his new book set to be released last week, and early reports indicate a bombshell of a tome. CNN’s Chris Cillizza runs down 11 of the most incredible parts of Comey’s memo that have already been released. Nothing in Comey’s book, however, may be bigger than the revelation that the “pee pee tape” could be real. From the Daily Beast:

We regret to inform you that James Comey, the former director of the FBI, says it’s “possible” that a pee tape involving Donald Trump and Russian prostitutes actually exists.

The most infamous section of the Steele dossier, which was full of salacious claims involving Trump and Russia, included a totally unverified claim that the now-president paid prostitutes in 2013 to pee on a Moscow hotel bed where Barack and Michelle Obama once slept.

In his new book, Comey revealed Trump asked him to investigate the claim that any such video existed in order to prove that it wasn’t true. In an interview Friday on Good Morning America, Comey said for the first time that the near-mythical tape could really exist.

Of course the “pee pee tape” might be real. Seriously — would anyone in America actually be surprised to learn that this is a real thing?

Meanwhile, the White House is prepping an all-out messaging war against Comey. Trump is attacking Comey as a “slime ball,” but Politico writes that the President may be on the verge of a complete explosion (or implosion — some kind of ‘splosion, anyway).

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (April 12)

Happy Birthday, David Letterman. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY… 

► Former Kansas Congressman and CIA Director Mike Pompeo is being questioned by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today as part of his confirmation process to become the next Secretary of State. As the Los Angeles Times reports, Pompeo is far from a sure thing to get through the confirmation process:

One Republican member of the committee, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, has said he will oppose Pompeo because of his past defense of harsh CIA interrogation tactics that critics called torture.

Unless Pompeo gains the vote of at least one Democrat, his nomination probably would move to the full Senate “without recommendation.” He is likely to win confirmation there, but not without more contentious debate.

Pompeo’s critics point to previous comments that activists describe as anti-Muslim. Many are concerned that unlike former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Pompeo would not challenge the president or offer differing views on foreign policy issues.

 

►  President Trump says a response to a potential chemical attack in Syria could come “soon” or “not at all.” Thanks for clearing that up.

 

► Congressional Republicans are expressing concern over President Trump’s apparent interest in re-doing the massive federal budget. From Politico:

A regretful President Donald Trump wants to roll back spending in a massive omnibus bill he signed into law, but Republicans who helped craft the legislation are in open revolt.

“My attitude is, your word is your bond,” House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said, in his first public comments on the Trump plan.

Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) is among more than a half-dozen appropriators who have voiced skepticism about the Trump administration’s proposal to cancel billions in spending. Nearly all said they feared that it could erode the GOP’s bargaining power in future budget talks. Their objections represented another low point in an often-tense relationship between the cost-cutting White House and GOP members of Congress who write spending bills.

The skeptics included the newly appointed Senate Appropriations chief, Richard Shelby, who met with Trump on Wednesday.

Get ready to hear a lot more about the word, “Rescissions.”

► Former gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo says he’ll back Walker Stapleton for the Republican nomination for Governor. Two months ago Tancredo ripped Stapleton as the “ultimate insider” in interviews following his own departure from the race.

 

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Vermont Takes Action on Gun Violence

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott

As CNN reports, Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott has signed his name to legislation with some real proposals for combating gun violence:

As he signed the measures, Scott, a Republican, called himself a Second Amendment supporter who owns guns and has hunted his whole life. But he said continued mass shootings in the United States and a recently foiled school shooting plot at Fair Haven Union High School in Vermont “forced me to do some soul searching.”

“I want every student and every school, every mom and dad, every victim of violence in any form to know that today we stand together as we take steps towards making our community safer for all of us,” Scott said.

Vermont’s new law raises the minimum age for gun buyers to 21; bans bump stocks; requires gun transactions to be facilitated by a licensed dealer who would perform background checks; and limits rifle magazines to 10 rounds.

We’re not holding our breath that either Congress or the Colorado legislature will advance any sort of meaningful gun violence legislation anytime soon, but kudos to Vermont lawmakers for showing that it can be done in a bipartisan manner.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 11)

On this day in history…not a whole lot happened, really. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY… 

► The Colorado political world is still buzzing about Republican Walker Stapleton’s surprise request to have his name removed from the GOP gubernatorial ballot so that he could try to get his name back on the ballot at the State Republican Convention on Saturday. 9News has more on a crazy political day that also saw Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) succeeding in a court hearing to keep his name on the June Primary ballot. But as Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, Lamborn isn’t out of the woods yet; an attorney for a group of Republicans who challenged Lamborn’s petitions says he plans to file an appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court by the end of the week.

 

► A fuming President Trump may fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as part of a plan to dump special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Congressional leaders are warning Trump not to attempt to fire Mueller, and the Senate could approve legislation designed to proactively protect the special counsel.

Steve Vladeck of NBC News outlines the different options for Trump should he really try to get rid of Mueller. Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California seems more than willing to assist.

 

► The Washington Post reports on President Trump’s latest Twitter spasm in which the big orange guy pokes Russia and Syria with missile threats:

President Trump warned Wednesday that missiles “will be coming” toward Syria in response to a suspected chemical attack, and he taunted Russia for vowing to shoot down any incoming strikes.

“Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’” the president wrote on Twitter, referring to missile strikes that have appeared likely since the weekend deaths of more than 40 Syrian civilians, including children.

Trump’s taunt was the first explicit U.S. statement that a military response is in the offing, and it marked a turnabout for a president who ridiculed his predecessor, Barack Obama, for allegedly telegraphing military strategy.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner insists that everything is fine. Just fine.

 

► House Speaker Paul Ryan confirmed rumors that he will not seek re-election in November. Ryan will leave behind a legacy that is not exactly one to be admired.

 

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